Burma, also known as Myanmar, is an incredible travel destination. Relatively closed-off from the rest of the world and thus less impacted by development, the country offers a sense of serenity and simplicity that is unique among its Southeast Asian neighbors.
Traveling in Burma, at least back in 2012, was challenging logistically. There was no roaming service available for cell phones, internet was scarce and generally unreliable, and there were only two ATMs (both at the airport) so we had to make sure we had all dollars with us. The challenges were all worth it, though, and the isolation added to the beauty of traveling through the country.
A three-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake gave us a glimpse of what life is like in the countryside. Farmers were hard at work in their traditional clothes, tending to their farmlands by hand with no piece of machinery in sight. They were scenes out of an idyllic countryside painting, the rolling hills carefully outlined in the distance. People have likened it to the early days of Tuscany.
We felt like explorers climbing the ancient temples of Bagan. We watched the sun set over thousands of them, with the dust from the ground giving it a ‘wild’ and magical feel.
Inle Lake was always covered with fog in the early morning, making it serenely beautiful. Its calm, glassy waters were only interrupted by fishermen, who stood on small boats and rowed using their legs.
We marvelled at the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda and witnessed the devout religiosity of the Burmese people.
Today, travelers in Burma can feel a rumbling in the country; a rumbling that, until recently, could only be read about in books, or overheard in rare moments of conversation. It is a rumbling that is stirred by a desire for freedom and the hope and need for change. Fifty years since the start of military rule and two years since the democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, people are slowly speaking up and are cautiously hopeful that change and growth – and democracy – are around the corner.